Midseason Report Cards 2017-18

2017-18 Midseason Report Card: Phoenix Suns

(All stats and records through Jan. 14; for report cards for all 30 teams click here.)

Offense: 102.5, 27th Overall

Defense: 108.8, 27th Overall

W-L | Pct. | GB

16-27 | .327 | 18.5

Conf.: 10-16

Div.: 3-5

Home: 8-15

Road: 8-12


Thank goodness for T.J. Warren, who’s having a breakout season; otherwise, the front line is plagued by players who have either peaked or are underachieving. Marquese Chriss is still trying to gain traction but he’s only 20. Tyson Chandler, a solid rebounder (9.7 rpg) and leader, would be a solid pickup by someone at the trade deadline — provided they’re willing to absorb his contract.


What’s not to love about Devin Booker? Once again he’s dropping shots from all over the floor and had back-to-back games of 38 and 46 points. His main issue is an occasional turnover binge. The Eric Bledsoe trade and release of Mike James opened the door for Tyler Ulis, who has struggled with the extended minutes and role. Crazy to think that, not too long ago, the Suns had a problematic surplus at point guard; now they’re thin.


One of the casualties of rebuilding, especially with teenagers, is dealing with defensive problems, and the Suns have many. They rank among the lowest in the league in terms of points allowed, opponent field goal percentage and forced turnovers. It’s all part of the learning process, and right now, it hurts. Chandler is the only natural defender.


The reason the Suns aren’t higher in the standings is because most of their young players still haven’t shown much growth. Shouldn’t improvement be apparent by now? Dragan Bender and Alex Len lead the charge in that category; neither big man can stitch together a few good weeks although Len’s rebounding has improved. First-round pick Josh Jackson’s poor shooting from deep (27 percent) is keeping him from getting more minutes and the ball when it counts.


Jay Triano is a smart coach put in a complicated situation just hours into the season when he assumed the job. The growth pains are evident but lately the young players have begun to get the message, and that’s Triano’s main job — to allow the future players to make their mistakes now and learn from them.


Will Jackson, Bender and Chriss look better and more confident in March and April than they did in November and December? If so, then the season will be successful. The Suns are still in the beginning stages of their redevelopment and while it has taken some time, it will be worth it if those three finish strong. With ample playing time and second chances, the opportunity is there. In the meantime, the franchise can take solace in the continued brilliance of Booker, gauge the trade interest for Chandler and decide if Len is worth a contract extension this summer. The trick is to go through this phase only once, while stockpiling help for next season.

Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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